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We caught up with Yiango Mavrocostanti, the Innovation Manager at Western Power Distribution (WPD), to talk about how WPD are using innovation to transition towards a carbon net zero future.

Yiango is responsible for setting the Innovation Strategy for WPD, defining the priority areas in which the company needs to innovate to facilitate the low carbon transition. Previous to this, Yiango has worked as an Innovation Engineer at WPD for five years managing technically focused projects, designing, integrating and successfully trialling new smart network control technologies.

WPD are currently working on a vast number of projects which are helping to shape the future of electricity distribution. One of the major successes WPD have implemented is the Network Equilibrium project. WPD have revolutionised the way they control their network by implementing real-time voltage optimisation, which was successfully trialled in a large scale £13m innovation project in 2019. Following the project, WPD have ambitious plans to roll out the scheme in their other areas during the ED2 price control period.

More on the Network Equilibrium project

The centralised voltage optimisation system that was designed and implemented as part of the Network Equilibrium project completely transformed the way that WPD manage voltages in 33kV and 11kV networks. Previously, an engineer would have to physically visit a substation to change its voltage control settings, they can now not only can do that remotely, but WPD have developed a completely autonomous system that decides what the voltage should be at the various substations, depending on the real time network operation. This new development has enabled WPD to make best use of their existing network and by optimising the network’s voltage profiles, it releases significant network capacity for the connection of low carbon technologies.

The future smart distribution network

Real time network control and optimisation technologies will become even more important in the future electricity distribution network where more smart technologies and flexibility solutions will be used. A DNO, or Distribution System Operator (DSO), will need to be able to optimise different areas of its network for different objectives depending on the local requirements. For example, an area might require optimisation for losses in order to improve network efficiency while another area might require optimisation of the use of flexibility services provided by network users in order to reduce carbon footprint and costs. Other areas might require both or a combination of other objectives, while at the same time Active Network Management might be operating in that same area which would need to be coordinated with any optimisation activities.

“This is what we think the future, even more complex, truly smart distribution network will look like. The implementation and trial of our first dynamic network optimisation system gave us the skills, experience and knowledge we needed to be able to now work on its roll-out in our other areas and start planning our next steps in transforming our network operation.” Yiango Mavrocostanti.

We asked Yiango, how is WPD an innovator in lowering carbon emissions and how do WPD stand above other DNOs?

“Everything we do in the innovation team evolves around our three main values of decarbonisation, value for money and excellence,” says Yiango. “We recognise that as a Distribution Network Operator we have a very important role to play in the decarbonisation of the energy system and we want to be a main contributor to this. We aim to achieve that by having a portfolio of projects that focus on the right areas, decarbonisation being one of them. We are passionate about providing value for money to our customers and using our innovation funding the best way possible. We have an internal governance processes in place to ensure that we achieve that through the way that we create, manage and deliver our projects.

“Additionally, to deliver our projects successfully, we believe that it is important to work with the best people. We are always looking for new partnerships with organisations and individuals that share the same passion and values as we do so that we can achieve excellence together. We are also looking to partner with DNOs internationally so that we can exchange learning from the work we have done so far, find ways to innovate together and solve the challenges we are all facing.”

What does the future look like for WPD?

“We are expanding our innovation project portfolio to create new projects in areas that we have never explored in detail before,” says Yiango. “Our new Innovation Strategy reflects this ambition and sets our priority areas. To ensure we are on track to achieve this, we have a number of calls for ideas planned which will enable people to submit their proposals for projects that address the specific challenges we set in each call.  Following our most recent call for ideas, we are excited that we will be soon launching our VENICE Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) project, a first of a kind project that will investigate how DNOs can support vulnerable customers and communities through the energy transition.”

“Additionally, we are continuously searching for new companies and organisations that share the same values as us, to exchange ideas and create new projects with. For this reason, we are looking forward to attending the CIRED 2021 conference, where we would like to speak with other international DNOs/DSOs and start new collaborations.”

 

To hear more views and opinions from industry experts on the future of electricity distribution, check out the CIRED Technical Series for more.

 

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